Teachers make small and big impacts on children’s lives every day.
Sometimes, their influence shapes the career choices students make. Sometimes, kids want to follow in their footsteps.
That was the case with Todd Merical, a sixth grade math and science teacher at Summit Middle School in Johnston.
“I had an outstanding fifth grade teacher who happened to be male, and he was an excellent role model, and I just enjoyed his class,” says Merical. “From that day on, I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
He adds the teacher was a coach as well, something that Merical himself has also pursued — he coaches softball at Johnston High School.
Merical, who has been teaching since 1990, previously taught in a “self-contained” classroom, covering all subjects. He was excited when he had the opportunity to teach math and science at Summit because the two are his favorite subjects to teach.
Students can relate what they’re learning in both subjects to things in their everyday lives, he says. He likes math because he enjoys how the concepts build upon one another. And in science, the topics are interesting and varied.
The content covered in both subjects has become more challenging over the years, but there’s also been an increase in hands-on experiences, he says. Changes in curriculum have helped engage students more, with those not as interested or confident in math and science having opportunities to be successful.
Technology has offered some of those hands-on experiences, getting kids excited about projects with the use of PowerPoint and iMovie. Students have even performed virtual surgeries, doing procedures involving the heart, brain and hip.
Merical says the most challenging part of his job is the No Child Left Behind law, and making sure every student hits specific criteria, despite the fact they have different educational levels.
While it’s a good challenge, “it definitely makes you look at various ways of how you’re getting the material to them,” Merical says.
The best parts of teaching include the students keeping him youthful and the unpredictability that accompanies the job.
“No two days are the same,” he says.